Breaking Bread, Strengthening Bonds

I celebrated my 42nd birthday earlier this week, and unlike my usual birthday outing with co-workers for lunch I actually recommended something a little different. I asked all my colleagues and office mates if they would bring food for an office potluck. Although it raised an eyebrow or two among those who were used to going out to lunch at a restaurant, I was happy to see that the majority of the folks actually liked the idea. I didn’t give my reason for this potluck request until after it was all done, and I’m glad I didn’t. As we gathered around our large conference room table and served ourselves in a “family style” manner, I saw a more relaxed set of people than was the norm.

There was laughter, storytelling and jokes, and (for sure) a lot of food. Granted, some was store bought, and others were homemade earlier that day, but in the end, all food was shared with care and genuine joy. Once everyone had their fill of food and were ready to return to work, I told them my reason for requesting this potluck rather than an outing to a restaurant. When we break bread together, we strengthen the bonds and ties of our relationships. Whether those relationships are work related or personal, there is something about sharing a meal together that brings us closer together.

In an Academia.edu article by David Purnell and Dr. Jacob Jenkins, the very act of sharing a meal (or simply sharing food) has been proven to have the ability to increase community ties (see full downloadable article at http://www.academia.edu/3457241/Breaking_Bread_Creating_Community_Foods_Ability_to_Increase_Communal_Ties_and_Relationships). Indeed, by sharing a meal together, we not only take care of a basic physical need, but we also strengthen or build the bonds in the relationship with one another. This was my reasoning for having my birthday potluck at the office. We’d spent so much time over the past few years with one another at my office that there were some bonds that were stronger than others, while a few had chosen to isolate themselves for fear of something – what that something is, I don’t know. My birthday potluck was my attempt to show everyone that we are still a community of sorts, albeit in a work environment. My hope was to build stronger bonds or to at least show everyone that our bonds could be stronger than they currently were. I said it at the end of our potluck, and then reiterated it in a personal email to everyone, hoping that they would continue the camaraderie and relationship building or strengthening.

In The Last Prophet, Raphael’s Journey (Book Three), the main character and his guardian angel break bread together as the start of their healing journey together. Again, relationship building and breaking the ice are accomplished when we share a meal together. Breaking bread with strangers can also build trust. Believe it or not, when one is in the middle of chewing their food or taking a bite, they are more vulnerable and we end up seemingly more “alike” than different to the person in front of us. There’s just something about sharing a meal with someone that makes us take off the masks of insecurity or doubt. We are taking care of a basic bodily need. We all need to have sustenance. We all need the company of others. By putting the two together, it lowers our defenses and provides for our human needs. Breaking bread, then, is an essential way of strengthening bonds, building community, and maintaining relationships.

Even businesses have taken this approach of “lunch meetings” to become more productive and build employee morale. Annual food events for companies is becoming more common for those whose employees consist primarily of working families or heads of families. Food and sharing meals just does something, and mostly positive.

Has sharing a meal or breaking bread with others helped create a positive experience for you? Please comment in the space provided.

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